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Are Slackers Holding You Back at Work?

written by: Amber Neely•edited by: Linda Richter•updated: 4/16/2012

If you've been around the workplace enough, you've probably dealt with slackers. Workplace slackers can cause tension, damage the reputation of your business, and create distractions that can hurt the productivity of the workplace. Learn to recognize the warning signs and what to do with these tips.

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    Slackers in the Workplace No one wants to admit that they have to deal with slackers in the workplace, but the chances that you will run into one aren't exactly low. There are lots of ways that slackers can hurt you, your team, your coworkers, and your business; learning to recognize the damage that slackers can do is one of the first steps to figuring out how to deal with them.

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    Slackers generally tend to have the ability to distract those around them, either by being disruptive or bothersome. It's hard to do you work when someone is openly avoiding doing theirs, isn't it? Because of this, slackers have the ability to not only derail one person for their job, but they can easily prevent an entire group from finishing projects on time.

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    Unbalanced Work Load

    Because they are slow to finish jobs, slackers can typically cause an interruption in workflow. One of the ways to fix this problem is typically to take some or all of the slackers' jobs and give them to a more reliable employee. However, this often creates an unbalanced workload for both parties involved. This type of behavior almost rewards the slacker and punishes the harder-working employee.

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    Of course it goes without saying that slackers will generally cause quite a bit of frustration in the workplace. Slackers generally make people angry because they can miss deadlines, delay group projects, or get recognition for being part of a group while they ultimately do less. Unfortunately, not every slacker is an unlikeable person. It's not unheard of for a slacker to be very charismatic, which can inspire feelings of guilt. It's hard to punish or be mad at someone you like, and by creating feelings of guilt, tension in the workplace can quickly become a problem.

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    Poor Company Image/Damaged Reputations

    One of the most dangerous things that slackers can do to is damage the reputation of team members, co-workers, employers, and even entire businesses. If a slacker interacts poorly with a customer, he or she can cause a bad reputation to be spread by word of mouth. Employers may have to deal with the backlash from angry clients who have dealt with a slacker in the workplace. Team members might find themselves yelled at more and more in the workplace, and tension will quickly rise among employees as they are forced to interact with workplace slackers.

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    How to Handle Slackers in the Workplace

    Now that you know how slackers can get in the way of a productive business, it's time that you figure out how you should handle them. Remember to always handle the situation with respect, but be firm and resolute in your endeavor. Below are a few ways you can handle slackers in the workplace to help take out some of the all-too-common frustrations.

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    Task Management

    Workplace Sometimes when people work in groups, everyone assumes that people will naturally carry their own workload without issue. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. Drawing up a quick plan that gives everyone an assigned task (or tasks) and having everyone agree on it will quickly make sure that everyone knows what they are supposed to be doing. It's a good idea to give each member of the team a copy of the agreed-upon tasks; that way if problems arise, everyone knows what tasks individual team members are assigned to perform. This is one of the easiest, non-confrontational ways to make sure that things get finished. And not to mention: Because everyone has agreed about what they are to do, if a slacker does fail, you've got the opportunity to call him on it.

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    Time Management

    Time management is crucial for any project, but one of the problems that we seem to face in the workplace is lack of concrete deadlines. Avoid using phrases like "soon" or "ASAP" or "whenever you get the chance." These ambiguous deadlines don't give anyone a concrete timeline to work with. Whenever possible, make sure you give the date and time that a project needs to be done. If you're really worried that someone will still miss a deadline, set up a work-in-progress deadline, in which everyone presents their current progress before they are finished. Keep these "checkpoints" short, but use them as a way to gauge how far along your employees or team members are in their projects and to keep an eye on any potential slackers that may quickly fall behind.

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    Be Firm

    No one likes to be the bad guy, but sometimes you have to be the one to put your foot down. Repeatedly missing deadlines, causing distractions, or causing office-wide frustration should not be tolerated by team members or employers by any means. Maintain a professional, firm tone and make sure that people know that these sorts of things will not be tolerated. By nipping these potential problems in the bud, you might be able to help a slacker become a better employee, and even prevent office confrontation before it pops up.

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    Talk to Your Superior

    Of course, sometimes slackers can't be helped. If you find that you simply cannot reason with someone, it's probably time that you talk to your superior about a slacker. Bring it up with as little hostility as possible and voice your concerns in a very respectful manner. After all, you don't want to create any more tension in the workplace. However, if you are the superior in question, you might have to be the bad guy. If a slacker repeatedly makes it hard for others to do their jobs, damages your company reputation, or just causes a lot of office drama, it might be time to cut that person loose.

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    Baker, Cheri. The Enlightened Manager - Slackers, Bums, and Victims: Dealing with Lazy Co-Workers at

    Image Credits:

    All Images are from and are licensed under Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons License

    Lazy Sunday Evening by Jason D'Great

    Workplace by WOVOX Team